Bluejays double last year's win total with sweep
WORTHINGTON -- Twice rallying in the late innings and erasing a three-run deficit each time Saturday afternoon, the Minnesota West Bluejays swept an early-season community college baseball doubleheader by capturing a pair of victories over the Northland Pioneers.
Minnesota West scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to force extra frames in the opener and went on to win 7-6 in nine innings.
The Bluejays then scored six runs in the bottom of the fifth in the nightcap to change a 6-3 deficit into a 9-6 advantage on their way to a 10-6 victory -- improving their overall record to 4-2, which is twice as many wins as they had all of last year when they went 2-27.
"We had a tough time finishing ballgames a season ago," Minnesota West head coach Jeff Linder said. "We have done a much better job of finishing games so far this year and today (Saturday) was a prime example of that. We kept battling to the end and fought back when we were behind to earn a couple of very nice wins on our home field."
Game 1 Minnesota West 7, Northland 6 (9 innings)
Dustin Pronk pitched eight quality innings and scored both the tying and winning runs in the opening game of the twinbill, helping lead the Bluejays to a come-from-behind victory.
Pronk (seven strikeouts, one walk) scattered nine hits in a solid outing on the mound before Mitchell Jensen worked the ninth inning and was credited with the win for Minnesota West.
The Bluejays jumped out to an early 2-0 lead with single runs in both the first and second innings. Brett Larson walked and scored on an RBI double by Jensen (2-for-2) in the opening frame, while Eric Koob (2-for-5) doubled and scampered home on a wild pitch in the second.
Northland, sparked by doubles from Skyler Bergeson, Andrew Whitacre and Joe Iverson, answered with three runs in the top of the third to take a 3-2 lead.
Alex Borowicz belted a solo home run in the fifth, and Hunter Aubol drove in Jarod Nelson with an RBI single in the sixth to extend the Pioneers' lead to 5-2.
Minnesota West pulled to within 5-3 in the bottom of the sixth after Adam Munkel (3-for-5) doubled and scored on an RBI infield single by Koob.
Iverson then tagged a solo home run with two outs in the top of the seventh to put Northland back up by three (6-3) heading in the final half inning.
Minnesota West put together a three-run rally with its backs to the wall, beginning with a one-out walk by Ben Cunningham. Larson and Pronk then smacked back-to-back singles to load the bases.
Munkel and Jensen followed with consecutive RBI singles, driving in Cunningham and Larson, respectively, to trim the margin to 6-5 and keep the bases loaded with one out.
Stuart Rogers then lifted a fly ball into right field for the second out, allowing Pronk to tag from third and slide in safely with the Bluejays' sixth run after avoiding the catcher's tag attempt on a close play at the plate.
After a scoreless eighth inning, Minnesota West pushed across the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. Pronk got things started with a lead-off double to right-center.
Munkel followed with a single to give the Bluejays runners on the corners before Jensen was intentionally walked to load the bases with no outs.
After a strikeout, Koob hit a groundball to third base. Northland had its infielders playing in and had a chance to get the inning's second out at the plate, but the throw sailed over the catcher's head and allowed Pronk to score easily for a 7-6 Bluejays' win.
R H E
N 003 011 10 -- 6 10 1
MW 110 001 301 -- 7 11 2
Game 2 Minnesota West 10, Northland 6
Minnesota West received another quality effort from its starting pitcher in the second game and once again rallied from a three-run hole to complete the sweep.
Munkel (six strikeouts, no walks) pitched the first five innings and got the win, allowing just one run on three hits through the first four innings before Northland scored five runs in the fifth.
Jensen came on in relief and retired all six batters he faced in the sixth and seventh innings, getting credited with a save after the Bluejays scored six runs in the bottom of the fifth to regain the lead.
"Our pitchers did a great job of throwing strikes and keeping our defense in the game," Linder said. "We were able to make the majority of the plays in the field and gave ourselves a chance to win, which was also made possible by our ability to come up with some timely hits throughout the day."
Minnesota West again took an early 2-0 cushion, as Munkel blasted a two-run home run in the bottom of the first. Larson had coaxed a lead-off walk and scored ahead of Munkel.
After the Pioneers scored once in the second, the Bluejays went up 3-1 on an RBI single by Mike Cooper in the bottom of the fourth. Trent Carlson singled two batters earlier and hustled home from second base on Cooper's opposite-field base hit.
Northland strung together five straight hits and scored five runs in the fifth to claim a 6-3 lead. A two-run double by Matt Noerhing was the big blow of the inning.
Minnesota West, though, bounced right back with a huge six-run output in the bottom half. Taylor Lupton's RBI single and Orie Brown's three-run home run to left field highlighted that surge and put the Bluejays in front by a 9-6 margin.
Larson tacked on an insurance run in the sixth by cracking a solo home run over the left-field fence, capping the game's scoring with a 10-6 Bluejays' lead.
"I'm really proud of the guys," Linder said. "We finished both of these games with wins and that is very important for us going forward. We have a lot of potential on this squad and these two wins give us a boost of confidence heading into next weekend."
Minnesota West returns to action Friday with a home doubleheader against Itasca (11 a.m. start) and Saturday with a home twinbill against Mesabi Range (3 p.m. start).
R H E
N 010 050 0 -- 6 8 2
MW 200 161 X -- 10 8 2